Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is the latest big-name company to move its active employee base to a private exchange, joining other brand-name companies such as Time, Inc., Sears, Darden Restaurants and Walgreens.

The hotel company is moving 26,500 full-time active employees and their families to Towers Watson’s OneExchange beginning April 1.

After opting for account-based health plans with health savings accounts in 2009, the company says moving to a private exchange was the “natural next step” in its health care strategy. The exchange “allows us to offer more choice in health care plans and carriers, continue providing health and productivity programs to keep health care benefits affordable, and sustain our benefit programs for the long term,” says Jeff Cava, executive vice president and chief human resource officer of Starwood.

Starwood joins another hotel company, Hilton Worldwide, in making the move to a private exchange. Hilton, which has approximately 70,000 employees in the U.S., uses Aon Hewitt’s private exchange.

Also see: Why Hilton Worldwide moved to a private exchange

Nearly half (47%) of employers surveyed by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative, a nonprofit coalition of business groups, have implemented or plan to consider using a private exchange for full-time, active employees before 2018, up from 45% in 2013.

“As health care costs continue to rise, forward-looking employers are taking advantage of new market-driven solutions for managing costs and staying competitive in their industries while delivering quality health benefits that can improve the health and wellness of their workforce,” says Jim Foreman, managing director of exchange solutions for Towers Watson.

Also see: Envision Healthcare shares reasons, challenges in private exchange move

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